CUYAHOGA FALLS: Howe Avenue, which carries more than 22,000 cars a day through one of Summit County’s busiest shopping areas, will be significantly disrupted for more than a year while the entire road is reconstructed.

The $8 million project won’t begin until April 2019, but the city is preparing stakeholders now because it will last into August 2020 and involve closures, one-way traffic and mile-long detours.

City Engineer Tony Demasi said the project has been on the city’s radar for nearly two decades. The concrete surface of the 1-mile section of road was poured in 1962, and much of it is still original.

“Overall, it’s really bad and pretty broken up and it all needs to be replaced,” Demasi said.

Only recently has the city acquired enough federal and state help to move the project to the front burner. Grants will pay for about $6.5 million of the project, with the city responsible for the remaining $1.5 million. The Ohio Department of Transportation will oversee the project.

The concrete road will be removed and reconstructed with asphalt, a material that will be much easier to maintain and also allow normal traffic to resume more quickly once it’s laid, Demasi said.

There will be new traffic lights and sidewalk replacement, but no changes in lane makeup. The street was already widened a few years ago.

The first phase of the project will begin in April 2019 and require closing Howe Avenue between the railroad tracks and Main Street/Home Avenue for 35 days as that section of pavement is reconstructed.

It’s a small segment, but since it takes place off the state Route 8 ramp, that exit will be closed and highway traffic will be detoured to Tallmadge Avenue.

Then for more than a year, Howe Avenue between the Main Street/Home Avenue intersection and Buchholzer Boulevard by Chapel Hill Mall will become one-way westbound. Eastbound traffic will be detoured on a U-shaped loop via Independence Avenue.

However, eastbound shoppers will be able to skip the detour and reach most businesses on both sides of Howe by using parking-lot access drives off Main Street to the north and Home Avenue to the south.

Erich Weiss, who owns the Chick-fil-A on Howe, said he trusts that the project needs to be done.

“The city deems it needs to happen. I’m an expert in chicken; I’m not an expert in roads, so we’ll just have to make plans to help our guests,” he said.

That means finding ways to get his restaurant’s food out rather than just relying on getting customers in at a time many will seek to avoid the area.

“We can do more deliveries. We also have a food truck and we’re working with vendors to see if we can combine with them” to reach customers away from the site, Weiss said.

The city recently held a meeting for businesses and stakeholders in the area.

Ten representatives turned out. Demasi said most businesses in the area are owned by out-of-state enterprises.

“No one’s complaining the project needs done; everyone agrees it needs done,” Demasi said. “They were mostly concerned about maintaining access to traffic.”

A website will be launched to keep residents, businesses and property owners updated as the work is done.

Chick-fil-A’s Weiss said construction projects are not fun — his restaurant suffered during the last street-widening effort.

“That was tough, but at least we had a lane open both ways,” he said.

This project will be tougher, he said, “but these types of things, it is what it is,” he said. “The city’s done a good job reaching out and being very transparent.”

It remains to be seen how the project will affect Chapel Hill Mall, which has been struggling in recent years. Howe Avenue is a main route to the mall.

The mall is down to one anchor, with a third of the interior vacant. New York businessman Mike Kohan said he’s working on mixed-use ideas to try to bring new traffic to the mall.

Kohan was unavailable for comment on the Howe Avenue project.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.

“No one’s complaining the project needs done; everyone agrees it needs done [Businesses] were mostly concerned about maintaining access to traffic.”

Tony Demasi

Cuyahoga Falls city engineer